Chelsea Kyle, 2009, Manhattan, NY
What are you up to? I work as Senior Visual Editor, Photographer for Condé Nast, specifically working with sister brands Epicurious and Bon Appetit. I direct, shoot, and produce all the photography for www.epicurious.com. Basically, a food story or recipe idea gets pitched to me from our Food Editors and I help facilitate how that gets represented visually. When we are working on big projects that require a larger team, I’m helping organize a team of freelance artists including additional Photographers, Food Stylists and Prop stylists. My time is split between being in the studio shooting and desk work editing, retouching, coordinating, etc. I occasionally shoot professional freelance gigs on my time off photographing restaurants, architecture, interiors design, and fashion.
I’m constantly surrounded by a lot of very passionate people who love food. Naturally, I have developed a deep love for the food world and I’ve picked up cooking myself. I live with one of my childhood friends (and fellow WHS alumni) who is also a photographer. My third roommate is a food stylist and a chef. My boyfriend is a pastry chef and food stylist. We love what we do so much that most of the time you’ll catch us on weekends in the kitchen with cameras.
How'd you get here? I was raised by my very old fashioned grandmother and my very forward thinking, modern mother. Both passionate as hell, especially when it came to me. I’d like to think I had a nice balance of both their ideals but the reality of it made it very difficult to choose between a traditional path pursuing a “reliable” career in science or break the norm and go to a trade school for photography.
After getting accepted to my dream school, Savannah College of Art and Design, I declined and chose to attend University of New Hampshire to study Nutrition. It didn’t take long for the little voice in my head to start screaming, “You’re in the wrong place.” So I went home to Connecticut and attended classes at Central Connecticut State University until I figured out my next step. I was accepted to University of Hartford for photography but the summer before my first fall semester, I was sitting in my mom’s kitchen expressing how I didn’t want to spend 2 of 4 years taking general art classes before I could focus solely on photography. I wanted a trade school that got me hands on experience with photo equipment and shooting right away. She encouraged me to follow my heart and we started looking at trade schools.
I finally found a home at New England School of Photography (NESOP) in Boston where I graduated with a focus in Advertising and Commercial photography and minored in Creative Imaging. During my studies at NESOP, I was interning at Boston Magazine and tutoring students in classes below me. Soon I started getting freelance photography gigs. By the time I graduated, I was shooting freelance full-time. I had clients all over Boston, small businesses, publications, etc. Three years later, through connections and recommendations, I got a call from Condé Nast and a month later I dropped everything to move to New York to start my current job.
What are your goals? I want to inspire people to follow their dreams like I have. I want to continue to bring people joy through the world of art, showing people a different side of life, and filling people up with beautiful representations of other people’s thoughts and ideas. I want to encourage people to fight for themselves and what they love.
My grandmother grew up in a time when she wasn’t allowed to pursue her dreams. She was a woman held back by society and an abusive father. She didn't stop; even when her mother killed herself, her sister died from a poorly treated infection and her marriage failed leaving her with 4 kids. She set out on her own and successfully raised four children and then three grandchildren (me!). She was a Girl Scout Leader growing up and countlessly told us girls that we could be whoever we wanted to be. She and my mother gave me a childhood of wonderful experiences and taught me to always say yes to opportunity.
Sadly, my mother battled with a vicious eating disorder, depression, and addiction and died as a result little over three years ago. She was an incredible person; she tried so hard to be her best and it took a toll on her mentally. My mom studied many religions seeking solace. She could recite scripture, religious readings, and spiritual anecdotes that she had memorized but through her many pursuits she couldn’t find faith in herself. It was difficult to comprehend how someone so smart, beautiful, and strong could be so saddened by their own mind. I wanted desperately to give her courage and support the way she did for me.
Both of these wonderful women in my life gave me the strength and confidence to achieve whatever I set my mind to when they couldn’t do it themselves. I hope to encourage others to do the same.
Advice for WHS Students? Success means more than just employment and executing your job well. Understand and appreciate the jobs of those who work around you and be inspiring and present. Small acts of consideration and kindness go a long way to making your work and personal life better for you, as well as for those around you. Your work ethic is important, but the attitude you bring to work and the way you treat others is just as important, if not more.
If you could tell your high school self one thing, what would it be? You'll change your mind a lot. That's okay. Nobody except you can tell you what makes you happy.